A decade of delight for Jamie McDonnell

McDonnell was all-smiles at a press conference in Sheffield last week
McDonnell was all-smiles at a press conference in Sheffield last week

Ten years ago this morning Jamie McDonnell woke up with his first professional fight stamped on his record.

On September 16, 2005, McDonnell won each of the six rounds of his pro debut against journeyman Neil Read at the Dome.

After an accomplished amateur career and a comfortable debut, the Hatfield fighter was tipped to make a big impact in the paid ranks.

But few could have predicted the heights his career would have reached a decade later.

Ten years on and a futher 29 fights later, McDonnell’s record now contains English, British, Commonwealth, European and two world titles at bantamweight.

His achievements see him ranked as Doncaster’s best ever boxer and he is right at the top of the list of the town’s greatest ever sporting figures.

And after the best performance of his career in a successful defence of his WBA title against Tomoki Kameda in Texas earlier this month, there is a feeling there is still plenty more to come.

McDonnell is not one to reminisce about what has come before in his career. Rather, he prefers to look at what is coming next.

So there is little surprise that he recalls very little about his debut.

“I don’t really remember much about it and I can say that about most of my career,” he told the Free Press.

Fresh-faced and off the mark - McDonnell after his debut

Fresh-faced and off the mark - McDonnell after his debut

“Not many fights stand out in my memory, I don’t know what it is really.

“I don’t think I could see very far down the road about where I wanted to go in my career.

“All I can remember thinking is that I wanted to have paid off my mortgage by the time I retired.

“I’m in a position now where I’ve done that and to still have a chance of achieving more is unbelievable.”

McDonnell piles the pressure on Neil Read in his first ever professional bout

McDonnell piles the pressure on Neil Read in his first ever professional bout

In the build-up to his fight with Kameda earlier this month, the 29-year-old hit the headlines for his brutal honesty about why he is in boxing.

Money beats glory for McDonnell and he makes no secret of that fact.

It means he is unlikely to pursue a rematch with Bristol’s Lee Haskins, holder of the interim IBF world title and one of just two men to beat him during his career. In comparison with potential fights ahead in America, the purse for facing Haskins would be miniscule.

Given the prospect of having to go back full time to his previous career in plastering, there is no surprise he wants to chase big money.

He said: “I’d be gutted if I had to go back plastering after everything I’ve achieved.

“My aim now is setting myself up for life and it’s been like that for the last couple of years.

First title ' McDonnell lifts the English bantamweight title after victory over Wayne Bloy in December 2007

First title ' McDonnell lifts the English bantamweight title after victory over Wayne Bloy in December 2007

“And if I fancy doing a couple of plastering jobs every now and again, that’ll be all right because it’ll be on my terms.”

Though money talk hits the headlines, it is not hard to see that glory still means something to McDonnell.

He talks regularly of clearing up the bantamweight division, or more specifically, having one of each of the major boxing organisation’s world titles in the weight class.

Though controversially stripped of his IBF world title two years ago, he managed to pick up the WBA crown which he has now defended successfully on three occasions, including twice against former WBO champion Kameda, who was stripped of that title for facing McDonnell.

“Right now, I should be sitting here with three world title belts,” McDonnell said.

“I never lost the IBF title, I’ve won the WBA title and I beat the kid who never lost the WBO title.

“It doesn’t bother me too much. Whatever has been thrown at me over the years, I’ve took it and kept going. I’ll keep going.

“But it’d be great to have all of the titles in a cabinet by the time I’ve finished.

“There’s not many to go so we’ll see what happens.”

Though his professional career is now ten years old, it was not until January 2010 that it truly went into overdrive.

Out of the blue he was handed the chance to fight British and Commonwealth bantamweight champion Ian Napa in London. Ranked as the underdog, he beat Napa on a split decision, taking both titles as well as his opponent’s shot at the European title in France two months later.

Reflecting on the big moments of his career, McDonnell recognises his clash with Napa as the pivotal moment.

He said: “The Ian Napa fight was massive for me.

“The opportunity came up fairly out of the blue and there was no way that I wasn’t going to take it.

“Sometimes you need luck on your side and thankfully for me there was luck on my side that night and I got the decision.

“That night was the real difference between me now driving around in a Range Rover or driving around in a clapped-out work van.

“It was the start.

“I’ve been going for ten years but it really kicked off five or six years ago.

“I beat Napa and within two months I was European champion.”

His two wins in America this year have significantly raised his profile and now McDonnell is beginning to get the recognition his achievements deserve.

In his typical manner, the father of one takes it all in his stride.

But he admits his recent win over Kameda and the plaudits he has subsequently received have left him with a sense of pride of what he has accomplished over the last decade.

McDonnell said: “I’ve got a beautiful wife and daughter, I’ve paid off my house at 29, I go on great holidays, I drive a Range Rover, I’ve just bought myself a Rolex – I’m living the dream.

“It’s not to show off, I’m just proud of what I’ve been able to achieve as a boxer.

“I don’t often sit back and think about my career because most of the time I’m just looking at what is next.

“But the other day I was sat with my wife and it just hit me what I’d just done in Texas and what had come before that. I told her I was proud and I really am.

“I’m just not quite finished with it yet.”

McDonnell hit new heights with his performance in beating Tomoki Kameda in Texas earlier this month

McDonnell hit new heights with his performance in beating Tomoki Kameda in Texas earlier this month